Veniamin Smekhov:

Yerevan's new image gladdens the eye

PanARMENIAN.Net - Russia is not only a strategic partner and ally for Armenia. Our countries are united by a community of cultures, regard for cultural heritage and people. Russian actors have always been welcome visitors to Armenia. Arrival of Russian and world cinema stars such as Veniamin Smekhov, Armen Jigarkhanyan, Alexander Shirvindt and Igor Kostolevsky to Armenia was traditionally an outstanding event. People's Artist of Russia and author Veniamin Smekhov shared impressions with PanARMENIAN.Net.
The first question is very trivial. Yet, describe the impressions you are leaving Armenia with. How did you like it here?

To receive a negative answer you should seek for people who have no heart, soul or who have arrived in Armenia in an awful mood. Now you are speaking to a person who is prepared. During our today's meetings I had time to mention the great number of points of intersection both in Russia's cultural life and my private life. Prokofyev, Shostakovich, Khachaturyan…These are three great names in the heaven of Russian-Armenian and world culture. This is avant-garde and post avant-garde of 1930-ies, 1940-ies, 1950-ies and 1960-ies. The same can be said about Martiros Saryan, who is another giant of that epoch.

If we speak about theater, we will also find variety of crossing lines. As to the cinema, I recollect that in 1988, in Rotterdam, Tarkovsky, Ioseliani and Parajanov were named three pillars of the future soviet cinema.

I was in Parajanov's museum today and I nearly cried because I coudn't stay there forever. It's an absolute wonder, comparable with the depositories of the world culture right up to the Hermitage and Prado. It's unique. The way it's preserved, the way it's loved… I was happy to know Sergei Parajanov. So, I am prepared for your question.

How can I dislike Armenia if I had the honor to know Yeghishe Charents. I trained Pavel Lisitsian's younger son by Charents works.

There are so many crossings in music as well.

December 12, I will take part in Stravinsky's The Soldier's Story suite together with the students of Moscow Conservatoire. I was invited by my friend Tigran Alikhanov, a renowned pianist, rector of our Conservatoire. Maybe, it would be more just if rector of your Conservatoire were Russian. But we are short of people. Armenians are here and there. What are we to do?

I was gifted a book titled "Armenia, Armenia". I never part with it. It's a collection of Russian poems about Armenia. It would explain better than me. I can only say: I am 'for'. For good and all…

It's not your first visit to Armenia. How do you like Yerevan's new image?

I first visited Armenia when a participant in a concert that took place in the Philharmonic. Those wonderful people, who drove us through the country, are not alive. Hrachya Kaplanyan, who used to host us, also passed away. We were happy and at the same time discontent with the atmosphere of a neglected city, a phenomenon quite ordinary for socialism. The face of socialism is obvious in Czechia where I am a visitor as a stage director. The center is marvelous but should you make a couple of steps aside and you will witness the reign of slovenliness. We are fleeing from socialism but I am not sure the way is leading capitalism.

Yet, the center of your capital city gladdens the eye. It is built beautifully and tastefully. You obviously dislike new houses. Like we ourselves did watching our new building works. We are not novices. Maupassant used his offensive vocabulary to describe the Eiffel Tower. But time passes and puts everything into place.

I see the difference in my life, in my friendship with natives of Armenia, with Armen Jigarkhanyan, whom I simply worship. We meet in cinema and theater. Moreover, we used to meet in the house of renowned neuropathologist, academician Levon Badalyan, the friend of mine, of Vladimir Visotsky, of Armen Jigarkhanyan and of Mikael Tariverdiyev.

We experience no problems. We still laugh at being called Russian actors, since nationality is a language. How can you call those Armenians who speak brilliant Russian? You are luckier to live in a small country. Kundera used to say: "Minimum space - maximum variety, maximum space - minimum variety.

Are there any plans to have guest performances in Armenia?

I will come if you invite. I would like to teach Master Class in your Institute of Theater and Cinema. I have the essential experience. I have traveled a lot with my wife, an art historian. I staged performances and taught Master Classes. So, why not do it in Yerevan?